Las Vegas Sun: Presidential hopefuls may want to bet on casino industry

September 27, 2015

Nevada is an important state for 2016 presidential candidates, and the casino lobby is trying to make sure its industry is considered important too.

Geoff Freeman, president of the American Gaming Association, recently sent a letter to candidates arguing that because Nevada is a key battleground state, presidential hopefuls need to recognize the contributions of the state’s most dominant industry if they want to succeed here.

Freeman urged the presidential candidates to consult with people who understand gaming and to make appearances at gaming facilities.

“As you travel to other key presidential states, you will quickly realize that gaming is no longer a niche, novel industry, but a nationwide, quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar industry that is supporting more than half a million jobs in the key states of Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” Freeman wrote.

Most tellingly, Freeman ended his letter by warning candidates his group planned to create a voter guide for casino employees so they know exactly how the next potential commander in chief feels about the industry.

The implication was clear: If presidential candidates aren’t favorable to casinos, the millions of workers supported by the industry will know it, and that could influence their vote.

So where do the candidates stand?

Jeb Bush (R)

The former Florida governor has publicly opposed the growth of gambling in his state. In 1999, for example, he said expanding gambling “goes against what I think ultimately is the right solution, which is to change our culture away from a something-for-nothing attitude,” according to the Sun Sentinel. Bush fought a proposal to add slot machines in Miami-Dade County in 2005, and the website of the group No Casinos, which opposes gambling expansion in Florida, lists Bush as a member of its statesmen’s council.

Lincoln Chafee (D)

As governor of Rhode Island, Chafee in 2013 helped celebrate the addition of table games to his state’s Twin River casino. In 2014, he signed legislation calling for a ballot measure to add table games to the Newport Grand slots parlor. Chafee said he supported casino gambling in Newport to generate revenue and defend against competition from Massachusetts, the Providence Journal reported. The measure failed.

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Christopher Browne